Origins: a reflective visit to the Forest of Bowland

By Daria Mirea

It is not hard to see how the fast-paced, highly modern and industrialised world we live in tempts us to overlook a fundamental aspect about ourselves: our origins. Going back to our roots is refreshing, it offers one a sense of identity, of belonging. And how could one go back to his or her roots if not by relishing the cultural richness that the English Countryside comes with?

Lancashire is essentially a rural area, and when one is gifted with such an exquisite variety of waterways, moorlands and forests, they must embrace it.

Michael Brace's picture of the Forest of Bowland
‘Probably England’s least known forest’ | Michael Brace via CC

Lancashire shelters the wild, natural Forest of Bowland, which is a product of thousands of years of human activity and an embodiment of how the countryside ennobles the human spirit.

I was welcomed by colours of green, sheep which accompany you in your journey through the forest if you are lucky enough, quaint towns surrounding the area and serene, picturesque reservoirs which provided the perfect scenery for a peaceful walk. The air smelled fresh and the moors, quiet witnesses of the spectacle of nature, recalled memories of ancient times, giving me a unique, unconstrained feeling of freedom.

Forest trees - Andy O'Donnell
Bowland Forest – Andy O’Donnell | Andy O'Donnell via Flickr Creative Commons

What makes this forest special is the new dimension it offers to the term “forest”, which does not refer to the mainstream definition of a large area of trees and undergrowth. It, in fact, means “Royal Hunting Ground”, immersing the traveller in the history of the place. It evokes the pre-1507 era in which the king would come in the forest and hunt for deer and wild boar, before the legislation that created royal hunting forests was revoked. The forest is also shelter to medieval heritages such as the Cistercian monastery at Sawley, which was founded in 1146 on land given by William, third Lord Percy.[1]

View from Downham Churchyard
View from Downham Churchyard | David Nutter

A testament of the past also lies in the Downham Village, close to the Forest of Bowland and Pendle Hill. It is considered the most beautiful village of Lancashire, its distinctiveness coming from remaining intact, unchanged, for centuries. Its lack of signs, television aerials and other indicators of modern life provide the perfect scenery for those wishing to escape the overwhelming modernity of the 21st century. The Assheton family is responsible for the village and surrounding well-managed estate. The manor has been in the family’s ownership since 1558 and has passed through a direct male line of the Asshetons since 1680. [2]

The Forest of Bowland reminds me of a place very close to my heart, and that is the serpentine roads one travels in their way to reaching The Bran Castle, in Romania, Transylvania, coming from the Southern part of the country. The road evokes a journey through time, as the curious ones may stop to visit the Mausoleum of Mateias, built in the 1928- 1935 period in the memory of the heroes of World War One. [3] Further in their journey, travellers get to feel the warm, welcoming nature of Romanian villagers who they can buy homemade honey or raspberries from, offering the trip to the castle a traditional, unique touch. They might even get the privilege to pull over and let a flock of sheep cross the street.

Castelul Bran "Dracula's Castle." Bran, Brașov
Castelul Bran “Dracula’s Castle.” Bran, Brașov | Benjamin via Flickr Creative Commons

It is when one arrives in the Moieciu commune [4] that the landscape becomes breath-taking. The Piatra Craiului Mountains arise, ruling over what seems to be a land forgotten by time: sheepfolds encircled by old, thin, wooden fences, hayfields and meadows reminding us that returning to tradition and simplicity brings us closer to who we are. The valley left behind scatters a few villages here and there, before being engulfed in trees, clouds and dreams, as one makes his way further to the castle.

Evening rays over Piatra Craiului Mountains | Horia Varlan

Be it the Forest of Bowland or the serpentines leading to the Bran Castle, what I found is that nature and the countryside reminded me of home and of who I was every time. No matter where we are, the countryside is shelter for our thoughts, our traditions, our origins.

The serenity of these places can only be an incentive for us to discover ourselves while discovering the nature surrounding us. Let’s relish what Lancashire and the countryside in general have to offer and ponder over our origins. Wherever there is green, there is home.

Nicky Nook, Forest of Bowland, Lancashire | Kev Haworth Photography via Flickr CC
About the author:

My name is Daria Mirea, I was born in Romania and I am a second year Management, Politics and International Relations student at Lancaster University, in love with nature, traditions and everything they have to offer. Lancashire has provided a rich and fulfilling natural environment that suits my personality and nurtured my educational needs, having an overwhelming impact on who I am as an individual.

See more of Daria’s beautiful photos of the Bran area of Romania here

Notes:

[1] History of the Forest of Bowland

[2] Downham Village

[3]The Mausoleum of Mateias

[4] Moieciu

 

Forest of Bowland Matthew Hartley via CC
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